President George W. Bush will complete a political journey familiar to several of his predecessors in Beijing this week, after apparently concluding that broad engagement is the best approach to China.
By many accounts, Bush surprised Chinese leaders by living up to his robust campaign rhetoric early in his administration with a hawkish line towards Beijing, unlike the pro-engagement strategy followed by his father George Bush and predecessor Bill Clinton.
Bush's initial stance was seen as evidence of the strong influence of a wing of his Republican party which sees Beijing as a looming security threat.
Early on, Bush alarmed China, and sections of his own government, when he declared that he would do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan in remarks which diluted the strategic ambiguity that had cloaked US policy towards the nationalist island.
Bush also signed off on a muscular arms package for Taiwan, further sparking China's ire and refused to water down his missile defense system despite Beijing's opposition.
The September 11 attacks on the United States changed the dynamic once again, providing an issue, anti-terrorism, where Washington and Beijing could work together.
Bush will make good on a promise to travel to the Chinese capital on Thursday, after previous plans to meet President Jiang Zemin there after the Asia-Pacific summit in Shanghai were rescheduled due to his war on terrorism.
The focus will be, in public at least, on China's help in the anti-terror campaign, which has encompassed intelligence sharing and behind the scenes diplomacy.
Hopes that the encounter will be a turning point in US-China ties will be buoyed by the obvious symbolism of Bush's visit ї which takes place 30 years to the day after then president Richard Nixon met Chairman Mao Zedong in epochal talks.
But can cooperation in terrorism mirror US and Chinese cooperation on surveillance of the Soviet Union which underpinned relations until the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989?
In further areas of divergence, Bush has promised to raise religious repression in China and Beijing's human rights record. China, which has frequently spoken out against what it sees as
US plans to assert hegemony, is also likely to be concerned at increasing signs that Bush will expand his war on terrorism ї possibly to Iraq.
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